Why So Many People File For Divorce In January

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While it's not an official holiday, January has earned the nickname of Divorce Month in legal circles. It's exactly what you'd think: the first month of the year has a reputation for an increased number of divorce filings. In fact, the first working Monday after New Year’s Day is sometimes even called National Divorce Day (that's January 9 this year).
Is there any truth to this nickname? Most years, you'll see searches for “divorce” spike on Google Trends and Pinterest, and some divorce attorney websites see an increase in traffic, according to USA Today. Additionally, a 2016 University of Washington study of divorce filings in that state between 2001 and 2015 found that divorce filings spiked annually in January after reaching a yearly low in December. 

After such reflection, some people resolve that the weight they want to lose for the new year is their spouse.

However, that same study found that while there was a sharp increase in divorce filings in January compared to December, it wasn’t the most popular month to file for divorce. That honour went to March, with August close behind. 
Emily Pollock and Kelly Frawley, partners at Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, told Refinery29 via email that the “Divorce Month” and “Divorce Day” nicknames are “connected to the idea that January is a popular month (some say the most popular) to commence divorce proceedings.”
There is some truth to that reputation, they say: “We don’t necessarily see an influx of new clients in January, but it is common that clients who have been on the fence about whether to file a divorce action, or even start the discussion about divorce with their spouse, may use January as a starting point to move forward with the process,” they explain.
There’s a reason for this: Many people spend time reflecting on their past and their future in December and early January. “It’s not uncommon for people to decide to commence divorce discussions in January as the start of a new year is, for many, a time of reflection of prior life choices and consideration of future goals — a time to evaluate how to improve on the things that are not working in their lives,” they say.
Think of it as another kind of New Year's resolution. “After such reflection, some people resolve that the weight they want to lose for the new year is their spouse," Pollock and Frawley say. "It also can be a natural time to start the process because people who may have been thinking about it for a while, wanted to make it through the holidays before disrupting the family with discussions of divorce.”
Family lawyer and Kalpaxis Legal CEO Cassandra Kalpaxis tells Refinery29 Australia that Christmas can be a massive factor in keeping couples together longer than expected. "[There's sometimes a] need to get through Christmas for the kids, [for] one last festive season together as a family. [There's also] the comfort of having a relationship at Christmas time... being single for the holidays can be quite emotional for some," she says.
Especially in Australia right now, there are a few contributing factors as to why many couples are considering a divorce, Kalpaxis adds.
"The cost of living increase is making it really difficult for most families in Australia. Due to the pressures of inflation mixed in with an already struggling, rocky marriage, it's going to add more strain on the couple and, therefore, without early intervention, lead to divorce," she says.
Since the start of the COVID outbreak, we've also seen a spike in divorce rates — largely attributed to lockdowns. "Couples had to face each other when they might have usually been distracted by their busy lives. Homeschooling, working from home, financial pressures from lockdowns and increased cost of living can create resentment within couples."
Pollock and Frawley have also noticed that divorce filings tend to increase in September, during back-to-school season in the US and UK. “Transitional periods like the change of season and the start of a new year — calendar or school — often provide the incentive to take action."
Generally, there’s no tax or financial reason to file for divorce in January compared to later in the year, Pollock and Frawley add, though there may be a personal reason: “If you've decided you want to be divorced, you may as well begin taking the steps sooner rather than later.”
If you’re considering filing for divorce, they advise you to begin by meeting with a trusted attorney who can discuss your specific situation and advise on how best to move forward. “There may be economic issues or family events that argue in favour of waiting to commence proceedings, and a knowledgeable attorney can help you identify those, discuss how best to broach the topic with your spouse, and discuss what you can be doing before you start the process to be as prepared as possible once it begins,” they say. But in the end, “It really just depends on when people believe it will be best for their family.”
Apart from legal proceedings, Kalpaxis emphasises the importance of a support network. "There are several support options available from health practitioners, including GPs, naturopaths, holistic counsellors, divorce coaches, divorce support groups, mediators, marriage mediators, family dispute resolution (FDR) practitioners, lawyers, books [and] online community groups," she says. "Seeing a psychologist is important, triaging those issues that might have led to the relationship breakdown. It is important that you engage in support early."
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